What can I do if I’m worried my friend is abusing their partner?

It’s a situation no one expects themselves to be in – you’re worried your friend isn’t treating their partner well. Maybe someone has shared their own concerns with you, or maybe you’ve seen something that’s made you worried. We always want to support our friends, but also just like any person, they can make mistakes or get things wrong. If our gut is telling us that something isn’t right, then there are some things we can do to help.

A checklist

  • Keep yourself safe.

The most important thing throughout all of this is keeping yourself safe.

This means thinking carefully about what you might do, seeking support from a trusted adult, and knowing that our friend’s behaviour isn’t our responsibility. If we can do something, that is great. But we can’t help others by putting ourselves in danger, so that is step number one; look after ourselves. We also need to consider the victim’s safety, carefully. Be led by them where possible. Discussing an abuser’s behaviour can lead to backlash against the victim. We can start by taking our time and preparing for a discussion.

  • Acknowledge your friend’s responsibility.

It can be hard to accept that someone you care about has hurt someone else. However, people are responsible for their own actions. If your friend talks to you, be sure to be empathetic and listen, but remember there may be more to the story than even they can accept. Remember, abusive people are often acting this way towards just one person. This shows that they aren’t just generally stressed, or have general anger problem, because they’re not treating everyone that way. Equally, plenty of people are stressed, or angry, without hurting other people. They are choosing how to behave, and any hurt caused is their responsibility.

  • Get support from an adult and a specialist service.

You don’t have to handle this on your own! In fact, it is best if you don’t. Talk to an adult you trust and tell them that you’re worried about your friend and their partner. Ask them for their support. Or speak to a service who are experts in helping people in your situation. Try calling the Respect Phoneline on 0808 802 040, or visiting their website – Help For Friends & Family Of Domestic Abuse Perpetrators | Respect UK (respectphoneline.org.uk)

  • Speak to your friend – let them know how you feel.

If you have done everything above, and you feel like you can, then speak to your friend. Make sure you listen as much as you talk but try to make it clear that you’re worried about them and their partner.


Remember, there’s no excuse for abuse. People make mistakes, including upsetting their partners, breaking their trust, or even cheating on them. This isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t make it ok for someone to hurt them. Two wrongs don’t make a right. If your friend doesn’t trust their partner, then they have options, including breaking up with them. You can be empathetic if your friend is upset, but you don’t have to agree with their response. Try saying, ‘I hear what you’re saying, but you can’t treat someone like that.’ You can also acknowledge how stressful the situation sounds and let them know they might need some help. Let them know that you are here, and so are the adults they trust, and the services available to them.

Ultimately, you can make a difference. Whether it is helping your friend see things differently, or noticing a pattern that you don’t want to repeat yourself… well done for being someone that’s brave enough to make a change.

Respect is a confidential helpline, email and webchat service for perpetrators of domestic violence looking for help to stop.  They help male and female perpetrators, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.  Partners or ex-partners of perpetrators, as well as concerned friends and family and Frontline Workers are welcome to get in touch for information, advice and support.